Beleaguered Springbok coach Allister Coetzee says he’s selected the current team with the match against Wales as well as the 2019 World Cup in mind. JON CARDINELLI in Cardiff reports.
Coetzee’s days as head coach are numbered. It may not matter whether the Boks win or lose at the Millennium Stadium this Saturday. Coetzee, who has presided over 11 wins in 24 Tests at this stage, may not see out his four-year contract.
Coetzee has put on a brave face for the media this week. On Monday at the team hotel in Cardiff, he literally laughed off allegations that he is exploring alternative employment opportunities in Japan.
On Thursday, Coetzee said that he has made selections for the season finale against Wales with the short and long term in mind. Warrick Gelant and Dan du Preez will start for the first time this Saturday. Louis Schreuder and Lukhanyo Am could make their debuts from the bench.
‘We would have liked to have made more changes and given more of these [fringe] players opportunities sooner. But after you lose your first game on tour [the Boks suffered a record 38-3 defeat to Ireland in Dublin] that puts you on the back foot,’ he said.
‘We’d like to come away from this tour knowing if some of the players are good enough to make it at this level. I’m happy to include Louis and Lukhanyo this week.
‘Look at the scrumhalf situation. Fourie du Preez and Ruan Pienaar played for almost 10 years. It was tough for other scrumhalves to come through. Even since last year, we had five or so 9s to look at.’
Two of those scrumhalves are no longer with the Boks. Faf de Klerk, the first-choice No 9 in 2016, wasn’t considered for the Boks or the SA A team earlier this year. Francois Hougaard was axed after the 57-0 defeat to Albany, with Coetzee citing Hougaard’s technical flaws as the reason for dismissal.
‘Louis, given the opportunity, can show that he can play at this standard,’ Coetzee said. ‘I’m pleased with Ross Cronjé’s development in his first Test season. I’m happy with the bit I’ve seen from Rudy Paige. But it’s time to look at who we have at scrumhalf No 3 and 4.
‘When you go to the World Cup, you want to have a good idea of who your top four are in each position. We’re two years and 18 Tests away from that, so we have to give players opportunities in certain positions.’
Gelant, who plays his rugby for the Bulls at fullback, will feature on the wing. Andries Coetzee will start at No 15 for the 13th consecutive time this year.
Perhaps Coetzee feels that Gelant’s future is at wing. That said, Gelant was selected for this tour as a specialist fullback.
‘It’s not just at fullback where Warrick is effective,’ said the Bok coach. ‘He’s one of those X-factor players you need in your team, either at 15 or 11. The fact that he understands both positions is an added advantage.
‘Dillyn Leyds is the same. Wales are a good side and they have a great kicker in flyhalf Dan Biggar. So to have those players at the back fits in with our plan.
‘Andries Coetzee has been really steady at the back. You need that at fullback. You need a consistent player with a low error rate and a good left boot. Then you’ve got those two wingers who can spark something from the back.’
The Bok coach went on to speak about the next game against Wales as if it were part of a longer process. While that may be true, it remains to be seen if Coetzee will drive that process in the years leading up to the 2019 World Cup.
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) November 30, 2017
Photo: Gabriele Maltinti/Gallo Images